Friday, February 27, 2009

Mother Teresa

A Deeply Spirtual Lent

You can count on Fr Tom at HLI to have deep insights into what makes a good Lent. I'm using his letter as a basis for observing Lent.

The Scriptures and our Church both tell us that Lent is not a season for timid creatures. If in Lent we were to simply jump through the hoops of fasting and abstinence on the days prescribed, we would be rightly accused of a sort of spiritual minimalism. But God is not served by minimalists - He wants tested saints of faith to be channels of His Life to the world! That is what Lent calls us to be.How will we embrace God's Life so deeply this season?

The answer is simple. By first jettisoning the baggage we have accumulated in our lives over the past year. I am talking here about interior personal baggage that we have picked up at the cheap convenience stores of human frailty and about which we let ourselves off the hook continuously: pettiness, every sort of self-indulgence, backbiting, selfish attitudes, worldliness, gossip and the like. Withdrawing permission for anti-Christian behaviors at the core of our beings and ridding ourselves of these faults and imperfections is the first order of business for Lent.
It is the basic Gospel call to conversion of heart, and there is no growth in the spiritual life if we do not repent of the things that keep us far away from God. Will we accept the challenge of removing the blockages to God's grace this Lent?If so, this interior purification is just the first step to embracing His Life.
The Church gives us three more: prayer, fasting and almsgiving. They seem so commonplace, yet these practices can create a consuming fire within us, transforming us into spiritually strong men and women of Christ. These practices are not spiritual drudgery; they are spiritual life! We don't put on our calendars that we have to "embrace life today"! We only have to live life each day, and in the same way, Lent asks us to consciously live those things which are channels of spiritual life for us.
Make prayer a passion, not a duty. Ask God for the grace to understand the true nature of prayer which is the very soul of our spiritual lives. If we don't pray, we suffocate spiritually. We wouldn't allow that to happen to our physical bodies, yet through negligence and any number of excuses we drop prayer off our list of priorities and end up spiritually suffocating our souls. There is no time like the present to commit ourselves to a strong prayer life. The interior benefits are truly life-giving.

Fasting makes us spiritual men and women in a way that few other practices can because fasting is a voluntary renunciation of desires of the flesh. No truly spiritual person can live without this practice. So here is a simple Lenten challenge - skip a meal. I guarantee that you will not die! Quite the contrary - you will find yourself filled with divine light in the depth of your being and a vibrancy of life like you have never felt before. Really try it.

Finally, make sure you go above and beyond the call of duty to help your neighbor. Almsgiving, namely, the voluntary deprivation of personal resources for the sake of another, is inconvenient, and sometimes radically so. No matter. Do it anyway and trust God to send it back to you many-fold. When even the smallest deeds of kindness and generosity are done with a completely childlike heart that expects nothing in return, the actual return is a full measure of God's grace and blessing. I would rather have that than all the money in the world.

Be faithful to Lent. It is a deep training program in life, divine Life that is. Let's not lose the opportunity to become deeply spiritual men and women this Lent, and God will then make us a channel of His Life to others.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Welcome "The Face of Pro-life" Viewers

Last night, on the live program of "The Face of Pro-life" I discussed the warm reception KIDS received in Washington, DC at the March for Life, meeting with Sen Sam Brownback and Rep Cathy McMorris Rogers, and our thoughts on where we might serve our children from here. We had several callers who wanted to know where parents expecting children with Down syndrome could find support, and I made reference to my friend Monica Rafie's website
Be Not Afraid. I also told viewers that the links on the sidebar of this site offered resources and blogs of families who had positive stories to share about life with Down syndrome.
So, if you saw me on "The Face of Pro-life" welcome and please don't be a stranger! Drop me a comment below and make my day.
I'll keep you posted about the amazing reaction Eileen Haupt and are finding as KIDS is becoming known out there. Only God knows where this will lead us, but we are 'riding the wave of the Holy Spirit' open to whatever comes.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

An early spring?

The other day, when it was a glorious 65 degrees and sunny, when we pale, weak things who have been suffering from the cold of a lifetime, crawled out to the front porch to feel the sun, we were rewarded with an extraordinary sight. Not one but three robin redbreasts!
And it's not even St Valentine's Day!
The big chunks of ice are melting in the driveway, and the ground is visible everwhere, so I'll be looking to see if my daffodils survived the hasty transplanting they received when we arrived last fall.
This may be premature, but I'm hungry for spring. We've had the snowiest winter in 20 years, and though I love snow, I love spring best of all.

Feb 22 UPDATE: Francisco made this video of the stream down the hill from our home. This is the first time I've seen the water flowing since New Year's and I realize how much I missed it's song. Sorry, you'll just have to imagine the sound!

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Amazing rosary video

See if you recognize more stars than I do; Eduardo Verastegui sings the "Salve Regina" and Immaculee Ilibagiza prays the prayer which saw her through the Rwandan genocide.
Copy the code and pass it on!

Friday, February 20, 2009

7 Quick Takes Friday

Does it bother any of you moms out there when you're playing an 'old' movie and your tween rolls her eyes at your teen, saying, "look at those hair styles, they're so NINETIES"!
About 4PM this afternoon, as I was catching up with what everyone else has been blogging about all day, I looked over my shoulder at the rug and found it populated with our entire pet collection; two labs, a black cat and a fuzzy tabby cat. I start to feel popular, and then I notice something. . .
they're all lying the patch of sunlight created by the setting sun in the office.
So much for popularity!
It's our second big school vacation since the girls entered school after ten years of homeschooling, and we quickly fell back into homeschooling mode. . .someone constantly in the kitchen making a sandwich, no one getting dressed, lot of silly sister gigglin, and LATE bedtimes. . .
and I miss seeing them during the day so much, I don't even complain!
Ever find yourself hunkering after something green in late February? This is when we usually start our annual seeds. after a shopping spree in our local hardware store. It's so much fun, even if the seedlings never see the outdoors.
In my new house, I have a greenhouse window in the kitchen. This year, my seedlings might make it through the deadly combinaton of neglectful Mom, curious, over-watering Christina and a cat who loves to dig.
Lent begins next Wednesday and I'm looking forward to imposing some much-needed discipline on myself. Well, not exactly looking forward to it. . . well, dreading it but acknowledging it's very necessary.
You shouldn't lie about the discipline of Lent.
It's good for you, but no one says you have to like it.
Speaking of Lent, I am so excited about the beer-battered fish fillets I have waiting in the freezer. They were on sale and really are a treat. . .so I shouldn't eat them for Lent, right, cause they wouldn't really count as abstinence? I should eat them tonight. Thought so.
However, unlike Jen, I adore the taste of cilantro, especially when it's served fresh in salads. So, with my bland arroz y frijoles(rice and beans) next Friday, I can eat a tasty green salad with cilantro and avocado. That is something to look forward to.
Did she mention that the Greek word from which cilantro is derived means "smells bad'?
Seven quick takes is hosted byJen at Conversion Diary.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Small Successes


This week everyone was off from school but recovering from three weeks of illness, so I was afraid that my plans for this week were not going to happen.
However we did manage to:

1. clear the dining room/office of the last of the moving boxes. (Don't tell anyone they're in the basement, at least we can see the floor, and it's clean!! )

2. Help the girls catch up with the schoolwork they missed while ill. They had time to have friends visit and see our newly clean home.

3. Send out those book proposals to the publishers.

The baby no one wants; Faith Hope is born

Her mother is an unmarried college student with no medical insurance. Faith Hope has ancephaly, which causes most mothers to abort her. But today, despite all that, she was born by C-section and is at her mother's side, very much wanted. A blessing from God.
Read her mother's blog We walk by faith.

Lia's trophy

If you have an email account, no doubt you've received the video of a speech done by 12 year old Lia for her school speech competition in Toronto. I tried to run in on my other blog, but gave up as it wouldn't play.
Lia didn't win the prize for best speech however, her YouTube video has had over 200,000 hits and one commenter said that she decided not to have an abortion, thanks to the video.
Watch it here on YouTube.
Bravo, mom and dad for raising this wonderful young lady with such a bold heart, and for allowing her to express herself regardless of the consequences.
She has won the best trophy of all.

Read the entire story at Life Site News and updates on Moral Outcry blog.

Pope Benedict's Lenten message

Is up on the Vatican website.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Chastity novelist Carmen Marcoux has a love story of her own

My Valentine’s Love Story Twenty-two years ago my husband, James, and I were wed on Valentine’s Day. Most people figure we must have been a really romantic pair – and truth be told, we were feeling rather romantic and in love! But really, it was a practical move as much as anything … we were students
Read the rest on her blog.

Call for stories on marriage

from my dear friend Jean Heimann of Catholic Fire;
Attention Married Men and Women:

I need your inspirational stories from a Catholic perspective affirming marriage and the family for a new book.

In it, I plan to share 15 compelling faith-filled stories of hope and healing from Catholic families who have dealt with great difficulties and hardships, but have managed to transcend these trials through the grace of God and the intercession of the saints.

Have you experienced great suffering in your family life, but managed to overcome it and experience great hope and unexpected graces in the midst of your trials through the intercession of a special saint or saints? Do you have a child who is handicapped, but instead of 'terminating' the pregnancy, you chose to keep your child? Has your family had to deal with unexpected financial hardships, debilitating or chronic illness but received healing and hope to transcend these trials? Has anyone in your family considered or had an abortion and the entire family was devastated by it, but God healed you and gave you hope? Have you dealt with marital infidelity or addictions that have been overcome through the intercession of a saint or saints? Has a spouse been converted to the faith through your prayers?Would you like to help and inspire others through your witness?
Your story should be 1800 - 2000 words in length.I am looking for content and not perfection in writing, as I will be editing the stories.

Due Date: March 15, 2009
Email your story in a Microsoft Word attachment to:
Jean M. Heimann

Give a dollar to The Michael Fund

I don't often do appeals on Cause of Our Joy, but here is a charity close to my heart. I wrote about Dr Jim Paddy Baggot in this article. His research was funded by The Michael Fund.
Dear Friend of Life,

In the 1940s, the popular comedian Eddie Cantor coined the name “March of Dimes” (MOD) to help raise money to fight polio. Every American, regardless of means, was asked to stick a dime in an envelope and send it to the White House to help raise research funds to eradicate polio. Despite the hard economic times, the first MOD campaign brought in $1.8 million.

Well, it’s February 2009, and times have changed.

The Michael Fund has become the prolife alternative to the March of Dimes, and instead of a dime we are asking for one dollar. This is the Michael Fund’s first annual online appeal. Our goal is to raise $250,000 funds for prolife genetic research and education – ONE DOLLAR for every person who will read this appeal during the month of February.

PLEASE – won’t you take a dollar from your wallet or purse, stick it in an envelope, and send it to the:

Michael Fund
4371 Northern Pike
Pittsburgh PA 15146

The International Foundation for Genetic Research, popularly known as the Michael Fund, was co-founded in 1978 as the prolife alternative to the March of Dimes, by Dr. Jerome Lejeune of Paris and Randy Engel, head of the U.S. Coalition for Life. To make an online donation or read more about the research and education program of the Michael Fund please visit All donations are tax-deductible. If you would like a copy of our Winter 2008 Friends of the Michael Fund Newsletter, “New Directions for Down Syndrome Research” by Dr. Paddy Jim Baggot, send your request to Randy Engel, Executive Director of the Michael Fund at
Please post and circulate this appeal to your relatives and friends.
May God bless you for your charity.

Prolife Youth Activism Conference

I am helping to organize a pro-life youth activism conference here at the Academy of the Holy Family. I will be co-moderator and the speaker on how to become a prolife activist online. In order to reach the largest possible audience, we will have the Friars stream the conference live on AirMaria.
Keep the afternoon of Saturday, March 28 open, and stay tuned for more details. I hope to link the conference on Facebook for a really large audience, and get some interesting visual aids going. All this while teaching Literature and keeping up with the children.
I'll be counting on your prayers for this, my friends.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Some promising research from Down Syndrome Education International

Dear Friend,
This year will mark the 30th anniversary of the day I received a letter from a father of a young girl with Down syndrome describing her (then) surprising aptitude for reading. This letter, from the late Leslie Duffen about his daughter Sarah, was the start of a fascinating journey.
During this time I have been privileged to be involved (along with many colleagues here and around the world) with groundbreaking research that has delivered marked improvements in the support and education offered to young people with Down syndrome today. There is still much to do to properly educate and inform all educators and therapists working with our children, but there has been notable progress in many parts of the world.
Leslie's letter also marked the beginning of what was to become Down Syndrome Education International. Starting in the early 1980s as a support group for a few dozen families engaged in our earliest research projects, the charity now delivers support to over 75,000 families and professionals in over 180 countries each year.
Ongoing practical research
With a growing team at our centres in the UK and the USA and working with partners at Universities around the world, we have a busy, ongoing programme of research, including:
* Classroom reading and language teaching trial - the
largest randomised controlled intervention trial to date will be underway at two centres in the UK in a few months' time and (if the results are as expected) will result in practical, assistant-delivered, daily reading, speech and language support for children in schools everywhere (supported by the UK Big Lottery Fund).
* Early reading pilot study - a pilot trial of two early literacy intervention approaches is underway with colleagues at the University of Denver, Colorado, USA (supported by The Rocky Mountain Down Syndrome Educational Fund, the McDonnell Foundation and the University of Denver).
* Early years studies - ongoing studies are investigating the factors influencing differing rates of development, effects of signing on language development and early indicators of social communication and behaviour difficulties - including early predictors of autism spectrum disorders (supported by
The Sue Buckley Research Fund and general funds).
* Attention profiles - a study at the University of Oxford, UK, is examining early attention profiles and their impact on literacy and numeracy development (supported by
The Sue Buckley Research Fund and the UK Economic and Social Research Council).
* Reading and language - a study is underway at the University of York, Centre for Reading and Language, UK, investigating the interrelationships between oral language and reading skills (supported by
The Sue Buckley Research Fund and the UK Economic and Social Research Council).
* Oral motor abilities - a study investigating oral motor control, speech, language, and non-verbal abilities will start at Lancaster University, UK, in April 2009 (supported by
The Sue Buckley Research Fund and the UK Economic and Social Research Council).
In addition, we have several studies 'ready to go' when we can secure funding. These include:
* Speech and language intervention at home - an evaluation of an intervention to improve speech clarity supported by speech and language therapists but delivered at home by parents is planned with colleagues at Macquarie University, Sydney.
* Working memory computer training - an evaluation of the effects of computer-based training to improve working memory is planned in partnership with colleagues in the Psychology Department, University of York, UK, who have already demonstrated the training helps working memory in other children with delays.
Expanding global information and advice services
Throughout its history, Down Syndrome Education International has remained focused on practical research that delivers tangible benefits to children and young people with Down syndrome, and on communicating up-to-date and effective advice and information based on this research to families and professionals. Coupled with our extensive experience delivering educational services, support and specialist advice, this model ensures that the research quickly informs effective practice.
This is a model we remain committed to today as we continue to expand our advice, support and information services to improve life for young people with Down syndrome around the world.
We have an exciting programme of ongoing and new information and advice services, including:
* Down Syndrome Issues and Information books online - from birth to adulthood, our
Down Syndrome Issues and Information books offer comprehensive information and practical guidance for families and professionals.
* Step-by-step early language teaching - our new
See and Learn early language programme (available free online) offers step-by-step guidance to support early language development. We are working on further steps in the language and reading programme and developing practical resources for speech, memory and number development.
* New Down Syndrome Education Conferences - reaching more people in more places with focused tracks for families and professionals, our
new conferences offer high quality, evidence based training.
* Global outreach with local impact - from California to Kiev, we are working with partners around the world to support improved support and services on the ground for young people with Down syndrome and their families.
* New online seminars and interactive events - we are launching a series of online seminars and interactive events for families and professionals to be delivered via the Internet via the latest web meeting and web conferencing technologies.
* New teaching reading film - continuing our series of
Down Syndrome in Practice films, we will publish a new film on teaching early reading to young children with Down syndrome later this year.
Supporting a better future
Most of our work depends on charitable giving.
Some of these activities are covered by specific grants we have secured - such as the funding from the UK Big Lottery fund for the reading intervention trial.
However, most of our day-to-day activities and much of our ongoing research programme depend on the generosity of thousands of families and friends around the world.
With an effective model of working that is firmly focused on delivering tangible outcomes, we operate our activities highly efficiently. To deliver all of the ongoing activities described in this letter our global operating expenses will total £820,000 (or $1,230,000 or €950,000) during 2009.
That is just under £11 (or under $17 or €13) per person we will help this year.
To ensure this work continues, we need your support today. There are many ways that you can give your support -
* You can donate securely and quickly online today to
Down Syndrome Education International (a UK registered charity) or to our associated US nonprofit, Down Syndrome Education USA.
* You can give regularly, be kept informed and receive exclusive members' rewards by
joining our new Supporters Club.
* You can organise a fundraising event - perhaps a sponsored sporting event or encourage your school to organise one of our
fun, educational and easy Up for Reading events.
Your donation - however large or small - will go a long way towards improving the lives of young people with Down syndrome everywhere.
Thank you,
Sue Buckley OBE

Chief Scientist
Down Syndrome Education International
Down Syndrome Education USA

Thursday, February 12, 2009

St Bernadette Soubirous

This February 11th was the 151st anniversary of the apparitions of St Bernadette at Lourdes.
Thirty years after her death, her body was exhumed and found to be in a perfect state of preservation; her skin is even soft to the touch. Read about this miracle at Catholic Online.
The world needs the message of prayer and penance even more now than then. The Holy Father had declared a year of jubilee to celebrate the anniversary of Our Lady of Lourdes.
The girls and I have been very sick for three weeks, and tonight we watched "The Song of Bernadette" and prayed the rosary (a day late, we lost track of the date) in thanksgiving for our slow return to health.
Please pray the rosary for our president and for the world.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

KIDS featured in The Catholic Standard and Times

Christina Bogdan, whom I met at the 2007 March for Life (this photo) and who inspired me to say, "we moms of Down syndrome children should march as a group" told Nadia a reporter at The Catholic Standard and Times in Philadelphia about our group.
She relates her experience as she joined our group at the March, lovely new infant wrapped inside a 'mommy-coat'.
“As soon as Andrew saw Sadie and Christina, his eyes lit up,” Bogdan said. “They never met before, but they were so excited to see each other. He saw children all day, but he was just so excited to see them because I think it is important for him to see that there are other children that are like him and are his age.”
I must say that Christina and I agreed that it would be great to 'do something' but it took Eileen Haupt, who emailed me after the March in 2008, to get the ball rolling. Eileen who has run for state office twice and is active in the National Right to Life Committee, is a real mover and shaker who is the inspiration behind KIDS. She came up with the name, she helped design the logo with a friend, and she keeps me, who is full of enthusiasm yet lacks organization on track.We feel strongly that God was behind this group, and we often say we are "riding the wave of the Holy Spirit". Let's see where that takes KIDS.
Read the entire article here.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

watching Extreme Makeover Home Edition to see special friends, the Girards, get their dream home.

Extreme Makeover; Home Edition features the Girard Family Tonight!

They have a tragic yet inspring story which teaches Ty Pennington a thing or two about faith. We know the Girards through the Friary, and they are an example of faith through the darkest of times.
Watch it with us tonight. See the preview here.

Three year old Chloe can read!

Friday, February 6, 2009

Leticia is reading an article about KIDS in The Catholic Standard and Times of Philadelphia

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Down syndrome team player.

My older girls who played basketball for the first time this year, will appreciate this story about a basketball player with Down syndrome, who saved the game.
"Patrick made sure his opportunity counted, scoring a 3-pointer with just his second shot. Then, with one minute left in the game, fans stood and chanted Patrick's name. The coach put him back in the game and he delivered -- sinking another three-pointer at the buzzer.
Patrick's teammates swarmed around him, and carried him off the court."
OK moms, were you crying when you read that? I sure was!

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Michael Dubriel has left us

It was the nightmare of every married person that befell our friend Amy Wellborn Dubriel yesterday. A call from the hospital about her husband, who had passed away while exercising. Michael was an outstanding Catholic writer and speaker with great plans under way to serve the Lord here on earth, yet he has been called too early to Heaven.
We will miss you, Michael, and pray for Amy and the children.
Here is an entry from Michael's blog Annunciations about the March for Life.
Here is a profoundly moving column, the last Michael would write, called One Seed Fell. Leave it to a great Catholic writer to give us words of comfort in her moment of grief.
We are offering our rosary for the Dubriel family.

Monday, February 2, 2009

A very important anniversary

On the fiftieth anniversary of Prof. Jérôme Lejeune's discovery of the cause of Down syndrome, French daily Le Figaro published an appeal by the Jérôme Lejeune Foundation:
"why does France spend money on screening and nothing on treatment ?".
"In France, there is currently no public policy for therapeutic research on Down syndrome; there is only a public policy for screening."
French medical daily, Le Quotidien du Médecin, also reported on this appeal : "it is conceivable to reduce mental deficiency enough to enable Down syndrome sufferers to be independent and live normally". The appeal is aimed in particular at researchers and decision makers for "France to invest at least as much in treatment research as in screening".
This appeal was published a day after the latest book by Jean-Marie Le Méné, chairman of the Jérôme Lejeune Foundation, was released in book stores : La trisomie est une tragédie grecque (Down Syndrome is a Greek Tragedy), published by Salvator.

Source: Contact Genethique, the online newsletter of the Fondation Lejeune in Paris.

My friend Elizabeth Gerold Miller's poem on pregnancy

is up on Mom-writers literary magazine. She is THE most gorgeous pregnant lady I have ever seen! She just glows; and so do her beautiful lines of poetry. They just make you miss those precious days.
Nice work, Elizabeth! Time for another baby, you look so lovely pregnant!

Feast of the Presentation of Our Lord: Candlemas

In All Generations Shall Call Me Blessed, Fr. Stefano Manelli quotes from Fr. Laurentin, who gives a precise explanation of the Presentation:

“The presentation of Jesus in the Temple is not a standard biblical scene. It was not at all customary to recount the presentation of a hero. The only precedent is in chapter one of the first book of Samuel, and Samuel’s presentation is quite different. It is not tied to a prescription of the law. The timing is different: in
I Sam. 1:22-24 it takes place after Samuel is weaned, while in Luke it takes place 40 days after Jesus’ birth. Samuel remains there forever (I Sam. 1:22), while Jesus returns to Nazareth (2:39). The significance of the act is quite different, for the presentation of Jesus, according to Luke, has an apocalyptic and theophanic character. He who bears the divine names of Holy, Lord, and Son of God, visits the temple as a poor child, but he is recognized by the witnesses as the 'Salvation' (lystrosis, 2:38) of Israel . The newness shines forth everywhere, and always in the same direction. Across the anecdotal diversity the great themes converge.”
(Academy of the Immaculate: 1995), 235
Source: Mary Vitamin

Newsweek gets it right

According to Granny Grump, Mary Carmichael at Newsweek has written an article on the new screening for Down syndrome which laments the fact that improved screening means more deaths of worthwhile people. Amazing! She gets it!
Now, I'm going to look up that article online. . .HERE it is! Read it and weep for joy!

A new baby and a new president

My friend Mary Ellen Barrett has a moving column at the Long Island Catholic on how the arrival of her eighth child (Brendan was born after she wrote the article) is a blessing to her family and wonders about the president's views on the sanctity of human life.
Great job, Mary Ellen, and congratulations on the Barrett family's newest blessing!